Junior Tennis Champion-Too fat to play. Fair?

I don’t follow tennis and didn’t know who the young lady was until today. But my mind is a-working over the story about her:

I can’t make up my mind on how I feel about this!

On one hand, I agree with her mother. The girl is the world champion. She became a champion using the body she inhabits presently. The USTA should have never let her compete for the championship if their policy is to only support svelte players. I don’t like the message this sends to teenagers who are heavy and athletic. Why should they even try to be winners if they are only going to be met with stank attitudes?

But on the other hand, maybe her weight will be a detriment to her long-term competitiveness, and that’s also not good. The USTA not only wants her to win now, but well into the future. They feel that tough love is needed to make this happen. Maybe nothing else has been shown to be effective.

Dopers, now is your chance to weigh in on this heavy matter!

(I didn’t know if this would get lost in the US tennis thread. That’s why I posted it here.)

What?!?! This is nonsense, judging by the pictures she’s not even that large.

If you’re the number 1 tennis player in the world in your class (in any active sport for that matter), I have to wonder how much more weight you can lose.
I opened that article expecting to see some girl that weighed 250 pounds and was wondering if they could have made a case that they were worried about her having a heart attack or some other medical condition on the court, but that’s really not it. I’ll bet they want her down, what, 20 pounds? If she’s number one in the world, she’s doing something right. I’m also thinking that since she’s only 16, if she keeps playing, she’ll probably lose the weight naturally over the next few years anyways or at least ‘grow into it’ so to speak. Hell, if she wore looser clothes (or some sort of compression ware) and a tighter sports bra, they may not have even noticed.
I say, let her play.

OTOH, if the USTA invests money into these kids (and I have no idea if they do) and expects to see a return, they may have actuaries that have found that kids above a certain weight get burned out and quit sooner or have too many problems too soon (rolling an ankle is probably a lot worse for someone carrying an extra 20 or 30 pounds for example) to keep playing long enough to start playing in major competitions and drawing international attention, sponsorships, huge crowds etc. At that point, like insurance, it’s just a numbers game and it’s hard to argue with it.

I have mixed feelings about it, too. I don’t know how much she actually weighs and in some pictures she looks significantly heavier than others, so I don’t know how much grounds they have to criticize her fitness. Given her body type I’m not sure how skinny she is likely to be in any case. The USTA apparently wants to make it clear they want all their juniors to play by the same rules and listen to their advice, which is not unreasonable, and if they’re keeping an eye on her health over the next 10 to 15 years, they’re right to do so. On the other hand she is obviously able to play and it’s not a good idea for them to alienate their best player. It’s not a good sign that this went public and if they’re concerned about her fitness, maybe there was a better way to deal with this.

I doubt they’re judging her fitness by the way her clothes look. All the junior players probably step on the scales frequently.

Total crap. Tennis doesn’t have weight divisions.

The current Wimbledon, Olympic, and US Open champ isn’t exactly what I would call svelte, and she seems to do okay.

A heavyweight match might be interesting.

This girl shouldn’t lose weight, she should just tighten. You know, just a little. Tighten. Seriously, she’s Hollywood fat, which just means she isn’t dangerously underweight. Before clicking the link, I was expecting a Kazakhstani weightlifter body.

No mixed feelings from me. Her weight is none of USTA’s goddamn business. The girl brings in on the court. That’s all that matters.

From the picture in the link she doesn’t seem to be any bigger than I remember Capriati being.

As long as you are fit, being a bit* overweight apparently doesn’t have significant health consequences or even better health outcomes than normal weight, or so the conclusions reached in this recent thread go (of course, most people are not overweight (fat) and fit, so this is no excuse to be overweight).

*Actually, some of the posted articles say outright “obesity”, not just a “bit” overweight. And of course, there is no mention of her BMI, whether it is actually in the overweight range or on the higher side of “normal”, which will result in some visible fat.

The story is here

In looking at some of the comments the concern really does seem to be that she needs to improve her overall fitness, and in fairness she does have a belly on herwhich is pretty unusual for a tennis player at her level and age. The association making this suggestion/demand has a lot invested in this player who normally would never have had the opportunity to train and compete at this level without their aid and support, so I think she at least owes it to them to listen.

I’m guessing this conversation about her weight has been going on for some time and they feel she has not been listening so their attitudes have hardened.

How do you figure? They’ve spent a significant amount of money on her training and travel and coaching. I have no idea how much, but she’s been considered a promising player for some time, which means the USTA has been involved in her coaching and development for some time. astro’s link says she is participating in a four-year tennis academy. The USTA doesn’t pay her, but she certainly isn’t traveling to tournaments all over the world on her own dime either. So this is a little like saying a football player’s conditioning is none of the team’s business.

Turns out the USTA did decide to cover Townsend’s expenses in the face of all the bad publicity.

Looking at the OP again… the USTA is probably wrong and they’ve handled it in a way that makes them look bad, but a few things are not being represented fairly. They never said they have a policy of only supporting thin players or that overweight people shouldn’t play sports or something. They said they didn’t want to pay for Townsend’s travel unless she gets in better shape. The fact that she’s been very successful doesn’t mean there are no issues with her fitness or that there couldn’t be any problems in the longer term.

Before it was pointed out that the USTA was covering her expenses I would have said they should STFU and let her play.

Now that I know the USTA is covering her expenses I think they have the right to cove the expenses of who they chose, but outside of that if she can cover her own expenses thay should still STFU.

ETA: This stinks of an image issue for the USTA over thier honest concern for her health

She ought to buy this T-shirt.

I think it is total nonsense, and the association is playing the fool.

They are quoted as saying “Our concern is her long-term health.” Oh, really? So, they have something in mind for her health plan when she doesn’t compete anymore? In case she drops out of the game? Say, if she loses a leg, they will have a long-term healthcare plan for her? What a bunch of saints!
Also, I sincerely hope that they are monitoring her sex life: wouldn’t want the girl to get an STD, because that would affect her long term health.

As it is, they are a bunch of freaks; don’t know what they were thinking.

Yes, I’m wondering if maybe people don’t know how this relationship works. (I’m a tennis fan and I have only a general idea.) National tennis federations put a lot of time and money into bringing up their top players: many of them spend years living at federation-operated tennis academies where they train and go to school, the federations provide coaches and cover their travel expenses to national and international tournaments and they’re responsible for the development of these players. This isn’t a tennis organization randomly calling a player fat; however tactless and unsupportive it is, it’s a disagreement over the fitness and the preparation of a young athlete. Townsend and her family say one thing, the USTA says another. This is definitely not an argument that just started at the U.S. Open either.

So Marley, just to be clear, there’s nothing the USTA could do to prevent her from playing in tournaments, correct? All they can do is withhold their own funding?

I think the claims of long term health are bullshit. For all the hype about BMI and weight - someone who practices at tennis enough to routinely win tournaments is going to be in better health than 99.9% of the general population, even if they are carrying a spare tire. They may be concerned that she’s going to get eaten alive when she starts competing at the adult level, but I refuse to believe there isn’t some “Viewers tune in to see hot chicks in miniskirts” thinking there as well.

Because they have not linked her weight to her competitive performance. They have not cited any lack of endurance or other ill effects on her game, just some nanny-state bullshit about concern for her future health.

She’s part of the “Player Development” program, not the “Win Junior Tournaments” program.

If her fitness isn’t up to snuff, she’s going to get creamed once she faces up against adults. The entire point of the program is to develop players who can compete as adults, not develop players who can tear up the junior circuit and don’t have the tools to compete once they turn 17.

On the amateur level, yes. She can enter whatever tournaments she wants and can get into. There’s a little bit more to this in that Townsend also requested a wildcard into the main draw U.S. Open - meaning she asked the USTA to give her one of their “free” spots in the tournament so she could play against the professionals; they get a couple of those and can distribute them to promising young players, well-known older players, or whoever else they want - and they said no. But that’s a bit different because she’s still an amateur and can’t make it into that tournament on her own yet. Once she turns professional she can enter whatever tournaments she qualifies for, meaning lower-level stuff at first and bigger events once she works her way up. By then she’ll presumably have sponsors paying for most of her stuff. On the amateur level, no, the USTA can’t stop her from playing, they can only say what they’ll pay for and what they won’t.

She’s being comapared to other tennis players, not the general population. And yes, her results this year have been better than the other players in her peer group even if maybe her fitness is not as good as it could be.

Is there any particular reason the USTA would be worrying about that? They’re not running a TV network or selling ads.

Is there a reason they have to wait for her to start to have problems before they can do anything? She’s 16 and it would seem to me that getting involved earlier is both smarter and easier. While her results recently have been very good, they’re more than entitled to think about her future. The fact that she’s winning now doesn’t mean the USTA can’t take a longer view. I think you know that teams want to keep their athletes in shape and if a player reports to camp out of shape, they are not necessarily going to wait to see if his results drop off before they say something. I can’t help thinking there is a significant amount of background information that we don’t have here. Townsend and the USTA didn’t start disagreeing over her fitness at the end of August, that much I’m sure of. I don’t know how well-founded their complaints are or how far apart they are over what she needs to do or how receptive each side has been to the other. I think all of this is unfortunate but I’m not comfortable assuming the USTA is completely in the wrong based on what we know.